Saturday, 28 August 2010

Antiziganism; First they came for the Gypsies...

First they came for the Gypsies
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Gypsy...
Pastor Martin Niemoller
Eviction
France has begun the first deportations of 700 members of the Roma Gypsy minority, to Romania and Bulgaria, as part of its controversial crackdown on communities officials hold responsible for criminal activity. The expulsions are set to be completed by the end of the month. Also affected by the law-and-order push are the nomadic "travelers" group the Roma are a subset of; delinquents and their families in France's troubled suburban housing projects; and human traffickers and the illegal immigrants they smuggle into France. But the highly publicized targeting of Roma in particular has been criticized as a cynical move by the conservative government of President Nicolas Sarkozy to seduce hard-right voters in the long march toward the President's 2012 re-election bid. It's also raising alarms from Romanian and European Union officials that France's drive may be fanning xenophobia and impinging on the rights of fellow E.U. citizens. Romania has been a member of the E.U. since 2007.

Worries about antiziganism in France are well-founded. The UN Commission on the Elimination of Racism has warned France about prejudiced and discriminatory language and acts. One of its members:
“Our concern is that the removal or return of the Roma has been done on a collective basis rather than examining their individual circumstances so it gives the appearance that a group has been identified rather than individuals.”

Unfortunately some politicians in all countries attack the Roma, perhaps thinking that it willl give them votes at little cost. The portrayal of Roma and the travelling community as thieves and criminals is a false one. Channel 4’s documentary 'My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding'. The Cutting Edge film had 5.3 million viewers – five times what the strand normally gets and its best show since 1996. The film, following four gypsy marriages across the country, showed a community with strong Catholic values with a somewhat conservative view of the world. They're faithful to their own traditions and customs with religion playing a very important part life.

The Roma, the people we know in the west as Gypsies, were said to have emigrated from India to the Balkans in the early Middle Ages. Yet they have retained their identity. Kept as slaves for centuries, they faced extermination during Romania’s World War Two alliance with Nazi Germany and forced assimilation under communism. Granted minority status only in 1990, a year after the fall of dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, they remain on the fringes of Romanian society, with little or no education or jobs among the Balkan country’s largely impoverished 22 million population.

In 1994 the Tories repealed the obligation of local councils to provide sites for travellers. It was estimated that Britain is short of about 3,500 sites for the 300,000-odd strong Romany and travelling population (most of whom live permanently in one place). Travellers have been forced to move across the country and sometimes camp illegally.

Things were little better unnder Labour, and now the coalition government has cut further, reversing policies giving incentives to councils to develop land for Gypsy and Traveller communities.

Jake Bowers runs the Gypsy Media Company, which provides education about Gypsies and Travellers, and presents Rokker Radio, a BBC programme for the Travelling community. He says that "the noose is tightening around the neck of the Gypsy and Travelling community". "If the government continues along these lines, Britain will see resistance and campaigns of civil disobedience on a scale not seen since the 60s," says Bowers, who grew up on the road as one of 17 children.

There have already been discussions among the UK's 300,000 Gypsies and Travellers about holding a series of co-ordinated protests, including jamming the motorway network with caravans. "We're ideally suited to disrupting the motorways: we live on the road, so it makes no difference to us to stop on the fast lane of a motorway for a couple of days," says Bowers. "There will definitely be a lot of non-violent, civil but radical actions if things carry on like this. We do it every day anyway: just our continued existence is an act of civil disobedience."

5 comments:

GIDEON MACK said...

Hello Adrian.

Like you I am an anti rascist; on this occasion however I respectfully disagree with you.

If a group of people or a particular nationality are accountable for above average crime rates within a society especially one where they are not legally resident, why not deport the same en mass.

Your rose tinted view I assume agrees that a mosque should/can be built near the site of ground zero where the twin towers once stood. Clearly it is not right that any one religion should be represented there, especially the one in whose name the towers were razed. This is not rascism, this is common sense.

The Gypsies you refer to generally do not add to or integrate with the society in which they dump themselves upon. France is making them all responsible for the acts of some of them - a lesson I learned in school.

I know you loathe different subject being raised on a post but shouldn't you (Green Party) be investigating the dumping of hazardous material from Reading in Kent? (please see my blog).

fleshisgrass said...

"If a group of people or a particular nationality are accountable for above average crime rates within a society especially one where they are not legally resident, why not deport the same en mass."

A group of people defined by ethnicity is never accountable, as a group, for crime. Individuals are responsible for crime, and must be held accountable on a strictly case by case basis. To attribute crime to a social group and then propose that they are deported is the definition of collective punishment. Even though you mean no harm, this is the opposite of anti-racist. Which in turn illustrates the difference between intent and effect, when it comes to discrimination.

Good post, Adrian.

Adrian Windisch said...

Cheers fleshisgrass, I was inspired by yours.

Gideon, I dont mind you mentioning another subject. You say you are antiracist but hold all Gypsies reponsoble for the actions of a few, and the same for Muslims. I think thats prejudiced.

Whats wrong with building Mosques? THere are already Mosques near ground zero, the land isn't sacred, and the proposal isnt for a Mosque anyway.

We regularly campaign against incineration, not sure why you think we are supporting this one in Kent. Just for you I will blog about it.

GIDEON MACK said...

Hello Adrian & Flesh is Grass

Re the mosque - i have no objections to any religion building anything anywhere generally. You seem to have ignored my point that by classifying on/adjacent to/near ground zero - would it not be advisable to make it an area not highlighting any one group?

Re the Roma - as far as I am aware the high levels of crime surround illegal camps of immigrant (illegal) people in France. Any French citizen whether they be Roma or not deserves every right; non citizens illegally there may be deported as seen fit.

Dealing with them on a case by case basis is expensive and why should the French tax payer be expected to fund this luxury?

Adrian Windisch said...

Look morw carwfully at the location of the islamic cebtre, its streets away from ground zero. There are many things nearer than that that you may wish to remove.

I wpuld not offer collective punishment to the roma for the actions of a few. That is prejudice.